Indeed, many political leaders and non-elite citizens believed Jefferson embraced the politics of the masses. “[I]n a government like ours it is the duty of the Chief-magistrate… to unite in himself the confidence of the whole people,” Jefferson wrote in 1810. 8 Nine years later, looking back on his monumental election, Jefferson again linked his triumph to the political engagement of ordinary citizens: “The revolution of 1800…was as real a revolution in the principles of our government as that of 76 was in it’s form,” he wrote, “not effected indeed by the sword…but by the rational and peaceable instrument of reform, the suffrage [voting] of the people.” 9 Jefferson desired to convince Americans, and the world, that a government that answered directly to the people would lead to lasting national union, not anarchic division. He wanted to prove that free people could govern themselves democratically.
Back to the topic of the attorney misconduct complaint filed against Platte County Prosecutor Eric Zahnd, which we reported in a front page story last week. The complaint surrounds the alleged conduct of Zahnd’s office in the criminal case of Darren L. Paden of Dearborn. Paden pled guilty to sexually molesting a young girl for more than a decade. He was eventually sentenced to 50 years in prison. The defense attorney, John P. O’Connor, accuses Zahnd of confronting and pressuring witnesses. After Paden pled guilty to sexually abusing the girl for what he admitted was two to three times a month from the time she was around five years old, 16 friends and relatives of Paden wrote letters to the judge urging leniency. O’Connor alleges Zahnd wanted his prosecutors to ask the letter writers to withdraw their letters. If they refused, according to the complaint, Zahnd’s office would cross-examine the letter writers at the sentencing hearing. Zahnd has said in seeking to persuade the letter writers to withdraw their letters--which are public information--he was trying to spare them from public shame and embarrassment. Zahnd has strongly denied any wrongdoing, insisting that he acted legally and ethically in the matter. He points out his publication of the letter writers’ names in a press release was truthful, a matter of public record and protected by the First Amendment.